23-24 November: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

Discover the momentous motor sporting events that took place this weekend in history ……..


~23 November ~

1952: Karl Kling and Hans Klenk won the third Carrera Panamerica in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. The original Carrera Panamericana was a border-to-border auto race on open roads in Mexico similar to Italy’s Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. Running for five consecutive years from 1950 to 1954, it was widely held by contemporaries to be the most dangerous race of any type in the world. After the Mexican section of the Pan-American Highway was completed in 1950, a nine-stage, six-day race across the country was organized by the Mexican government to celebrate its achievement and to attract international business. The 1950 race ran almost entirely along the new highway which crossed the country from north to south for a total distance of over 2,096 miles. The Carrera Panamerica has since been resurrected by Pedro Dávila and Eduardo de Leon as a classic road rally.
1962: John Surtees signed to drive for Ferrari.
1978: Hannu Mikkola and Ame Hertz won the RAC Rally with a Ford Escort Rs 1800
1983: Stig Blomqvixt and Bjorn Cederberg won the RAC Rally with an Audi Quattro A2.
1999: Richard Burns and Robert Reid won Great Britain Rally with a Subaru Impreza WRC.
2001: Robby Gordon sped to his first NASCAR Winston Cup win in the season finale at New Hamp­shire International Speedway (US). The race was postponed from September 16 after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Jeff Gordon nabbeds his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup title by 349 points over Tony Stewart.
2009: Nico Rosberg’s unveiling as a Mercedes driver was, noted the Daily Mail, “like Hamlet without the prince”. Despite strenuous denials, the thing the media all wanted to talk about was the rumoured return of Michael Schumacher, and a vague and off-message aside from team boss Norbert Haug only fuelled speculation. “When would you ever say anything categorically in Formula One? I have nothing to add.” The off-stage noise was a regrettable distraction for Rosberg, who said he was “a little surprised” not to be partnering Jenson Button, whose move to McLaren had left a space for Schumacher.

~24 November~

1968: The London-Sydney Marathon Car Rally started at the Crystal Palace racing circuit in London at 2pm. It finished at Warwick Farm (an outer Sydney suburb), on Tuesday, December 17th 1968. “Until now, the toughest International rally in the world has been the East Africa Safari. If you spoke English, some Afrikaans and perhaps a little Swahili, you could muddle through. In the end, a handful of money waved at some native bystanders would always get you towed out of a bog. But in the London-Sydney Marathon it will be desirable to have a working knowledge of Urdu, Esperanto, lower Afghanistani dialect and possibly even English. This is the most International rally ever run. Cars have come from Britain, Australia, America, Soviet Russia, France, Germany….. the drivers include a Russian named Lifhits and an Indian called Ghandi….. the route crosses dozens of borders….. Organisers can go so far in helping competitors with the problems of country and language, but a lot has to be left with the crews. The comprehensive route guidance notes given to every team months ago, detailed rates of exchange, border procedures, and dozens of other small items of valuable information. But each team, realising that there was hardly any allowance for time lost through breakdowns or servicing, was still faced with the problem of keeping the cars going. In a normal rally, car manufacturers and tyre and oil companies like Dunlop and Castrol literally “shadow” the rally route with service vehicles and crews. But the London-Sydney is so far and so fast, that a complete re-think was needed. Both Castrol and Dunlop have been working for months on a complex network of oil

and tyre supplies stretching halfway across the world. Both companies are, of course, quite used to this. Both have been knee-deep in motor sport for the last 50 – odd years. In fact, it was a Dunlop employee, Harry James, who started motor sport in Australia with a “demonstration” run at Aspendale racecourse in Victoria in 1904. Castrol is now one of the major sponsors of motor sport in the world. In Australia, their drivers include the famous Geoghegan brothers, the works Nissan team and the BMC works cars. Overseas, they look after world motor cycle champion, Mike Hailwood, the BMC works rally team of Hopkirk – Makinen – Aaltonen – Fall, and the Ford rally team, as well as Polish driver Sobieslaw Zasada, who last year won the European Championship. One of their more famous operators is expatriate Australian Paul Hawkins, one of the world’s greatest sports car drivers. Castrol car and bike wins have been chalked up at Daytona, Singapore, Wisconsin, Sebring, Le-Mans, Barcelona and the Isle of Man. On the other hand, Dunlop has been designing and producing racing tyres for scores of years. For one period of about 15 years up to 1965, Dunlop was the only tyre company supplying racing tyres to World Championship Grand Prix cars. The choice of racing tyres has become so wide that there are now special tyres for wet and dry racing, for ice and snow, for wet and dry gravel. The London-Sydney competitors will be able to call on six different types of Dunlop tyre for varying terrain and climate. It is this sort of wide experience in servicing motor sport of all kinds all over the world that makes Castrol and Dunlop, and other major companies like them, so involved in this great Marathon”. – Daily Telegraph.
1970: Bobby Isaac set a new World Closed Course Speed Record of 201.104 mph at Talledega, Alabama, US.
1976: March held a press to launch their 6-wheeled F1 car called the 2-4-0. The car followed on from the successful use by Tyrrell Racing of a six-wheeled car, the Tyrrell P34, in Formula One racing. However, the engineering concept behind the 2-4-0 was quite different. At March Engineering in Bicester, designer Robin Herd had watched the P34 experiment closely and, by late 1976, had come to the conclusion that the ‘four front wheels’ concept might have been a blind alley. In his assessment, the improved aerodynamics at the front were largely negated by the rear tyres which at 24″ (60 cm) diameter would still have accounted for 30 to 40% of the car’s total drag. He also felt that with a modern rear wheel drive F1 car, the extra grip could be employed more usefully for the driven wheels. With this in mind, Herd drew up plans for a six-wheeled car with four driven wheels at the rear and all of the wheels the same 16″ diameter. His theory was that with all six tyres the same size as the regular F1 front tyre, the car would not only be slimmer than normal F1 cars but would possess improved aerodynamic performance at the rear with much cleaner air passing over the wing. Four driven wheels would also mean better traction and, unlike the Tyrrell, there would be no problem with tyre development since the car would use exactly the same rubber as a conventional F1 car. Herd called this concept ‘2-4-0’, following the Whyte notation used to describe railway rolling stock: two wheels leading, four driven wheels, zero trailing wheels. The first test took place at Silverstone in late 1976. Unfortunately, on the initial lap the gearbox casing flexed and the gears became unmeshed. No immediate solution could be found and so the rear crown wheel and pinion were removed for the rest of the day’s testing. Effectively the 2-4-0 had become a two-wheel drive car again. Fortunately for March, it was a wet day at the circuit and the driver Howden Ganley could not push the car too fast. Consequently, the test was reported as a success by the media. The problems on the first lap highlighted the fact that the car needed a new, stronger gearbox casing and a serious development program. Unable to afford the time and resources that this would require, the 2-4-0 project was de-prioritised by the company. In February 1977, the car — now fitted with a stronger gearbox — ran again at Silverstone with driver Ian Scheckter at the wheel. Although it was another wet day, the car was run up and down the Hangar Straight and, with four driven wheels, Scheckter reported that the traction was ‘incredible’. Additionally, the events of the day again made Autosport magazine’s front page (dated 10 February 1977). But this was the end of 2-4-0’s F1 development history. On its reappearance at the Belgium GP in June, the converted 761 chassis had been reconfigured as a conventional four-wheeler.
1977: Bjorn Waldegaard and Hans Thorszelius won the RAC Rally with a Ford Escort RS 1800.
1988: Marku Alen and Ikka KivimakiI won the RAC Rally with a Lancia Delta HF 4 WD.
1989: Pentti Airikkala and Ronan McNamee won the RAC RALLY with a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4.
1993: Juha Kankkunen and Nicky Grist won the RAC Rally with a Toyota Celica GT-Four.
1998: Richard Burns and Robert Reid won Great Britain Rally with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5.
2005: The curtain came down on the Minardi team with the last outing of a car bearing the name following its takeover and rebranding as Toro Rosso. Fittingly, owner Paul Stoddart drove the final lap. “It turned out to be a more emotional experience than I expected,” he said. “For so many years Minardi has given so much to so many. I wish Toro Rosso every success, but I know I am not alone in thinking it will always be Minardi in the minds of so many people.”
2006: Twenty-one year old Lewis Hamilton was confirmed as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate at McLaren for the following season, despite still not having driven an F1 car. It was the culmination of a relationship which had started 11 years earlier with a handshake between Ron Dennis and Hamilton. “We reviewed the grid and, apart from the top three, we reckoned most of them had plateaued,” Dennis said. “I am distinctly unimpressed with the majority of drivers currently involved in F1. I feel Lewis is well equipped to deal with these drivers who fall into that category.” Hamilton himself admitted he was “overwhelmed”. He added: “It was a surreal feeling. I was sat on a couch opposite Ron at his home. He told me that McLaren had decided to take me on as their new driver. It didn’t kick in. I put on a professional face. I could see Ron was excited. He said I should be, too. Inside I was. But it had been such a long wait. It was a warm feeling knowing the seat was mine. Now I have to get on and prepare.” The decision to appoint Hamilton was made after Monza in late September but had been kept secret.
2009: Flavio Briatore’s ultimately successful appeal against his lifetime ban from motorsport as well as £1 million in damages resulting from the Crashgate scandal began in a Paris court. The controversy centred on an early crash involving Nelson Piquet, Jr.’s car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix of 28 September 2008, when he was still driving for Renault. At the time, Piquet Jr. described the crash as a simple mistake; however, shortly after his acrimonious departure from Renault and criticism of Briatore nearly a year later in August 2009, allegations surfaced that he had deliberately crashed to help Renault team mate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race. After a Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) investigation, on 4 September 2009 Renault were charged with conspiracy and race fixing, and were due to face the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009. In return for immunity from punishment, Piquet Jr. had reportedly stated to the FIA that he had been asked to crash by Briatore and Renault chief engineer Pat Symonds. On 11 September, following leaks of Piquet Jr.’s evidence, Renault and Briatore stated they would take legal action against Piquet, Jr. for making false allegations; however, five days later, Renault announced they would not contest the charges, and that Briatore and Symonds had left the team. The day after the Renault announcement, Renault confirmed Briatore had resigned from the team, while Briatore himself stated of his departure that “I was just trying to save the team”, “It’s my duty. That’s the reason I’ve finished.” The team issued the following official statement: The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.[29] At the same hearing, the FIA banned Briatore from FIA-sanctioned events indefinitely. The FIA also stated that it would not renew any superlicence granted to Briatore-managed drivers—effectively barring him from managing drivers who participate in any competition that is under the FIA’s authority. The FIA stated that it was coming down hard on Briatore because he denied his involvement despite overwhelming evidence, and that Renault’s actions were serious enough to merit being thrown out of F1. However, since Renault took swift action by forcing Briatore and Symonds to resign once the affair came to light, the FIA effectively placed the team on two years’ probation. If Renault committed a comparable offence between 2009 and 2011, they were to be indefinitely banned from F1. British newspaper The Daily Mirror described the ban as the harshest sanction ever imposed on an individual in the history of motorsport. Briatore later said he was “distraught” at the FIA’s action, and sued the FIA in French courts to clear his name. On 5 January 2010, the Tribunal de Grande Instance overturned the ban and granted him €15,000 in compensation.The tribunal declared in particular that “the decision of the World Council was presided over by the FIA president, who was well known to be in conflict with Briatore, with Mr Mosley having played a leading role in launching the inquiry and its investigation in violation of the principle of separation of the power of the bodies”. The FIA announced that it would appeal the decision issued by the French court, but the two parties reached an out-of-court settlement the following April. In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Briatore said that he is sure that he will not return to Formula One, despite having his ban overturned.

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